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Honduras: Helping Poor Teens get Jobs, better Education

May 25, 2011

  • MD Sri Mulyani Indrawati discussed the Bank's support to Honduras with President Porfirio Lobo
  • Bank programs have prepared thousands of young Hondurans for their first job
  • Mobile courts have resolved more than 20,000 civil cases

TEGUCIGALPA, May 25, 2011 - Juan de Dios Vasquez didn't mind the daily two- hour walk under the scorching Honduran sun, or the dirt road that made his journey to the training center ever more difficult. But five whole months of enduring such harsh conditions were a small price to pay to achieve his goal of becoming a professional waiter and, in the process, breaking a cycle of poverty and abuse at home.

Vasquez, 17, a member of the Lenca indigenous community, is one of thousands of Honduran teens that have been taking advantage of 'Mi Primer Empleo' (My First Job), a World Bank supported program that levels the playing field for underprivileged youth by preparing them to enter the competitive Honduran job market.

So far more than 4,000 kids like Juan de Dios have received free training and subsidies that allow them to attend classes without the distractions of having to make a living while studying – a common plight for many poor kids in the region.


Mi Primer Empleo prepares Honduran teens for their first job in administration, hospitality and health, among other.
(Click photo to enlarge)

"This experience has literally changed my life and God knows what would have become of me had it not been for Mi Primer Empleo," Vasquez told a World Bank visiting delegation, including Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati and country manager Carlos Felipe Jaramillo. Indrawati is touring the region to gain first hand knowledge of the Bank's work there and to evaluate its ongoing support.

Vasquez was not exaggerating. The program so far has helped a great number of indigenous kids -among the nation's most vulnerable- get a job or pursue a career.

Vasquez thinks that the program has been so effective in helping people like him break the poverty cycle that he urged the World Bank and Honduran officials to expand its scope to include micro loans for aspiring small entrepreneurs.

A key component of the Nutrition and Social Protection Project, 'Mi Primer Empleo' trains poor kids for entry level jobs mostly in the service industry, including hospitality, health and administrative services. In a vast number of cases, these jobs have been stepping stones for trainees to pursue higher education.

"Education and training rate among the best investments governments can do to improve opportunities for all in society and I'm glad to see that Mi Primer Empleo is providing effective mechanisms to address education and unemployment issues in Honduras," said Indrawati as she met a group of young beneficiaries.


Sri Mulyani Indrawati visited a Mobile Court, which provides free legal services to poor Hondurans.
(Click photo to enlarge)

As part of her first mission to the region that includes stops in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, Indrawati has paid special attention to the Bank's social programs.

The top Bank official visited a mobile civil court, an initiative that provides free legal services to poor Hondurans as part of a proposed overhaul of the country's judicial system. In operation since 2008 the mobile courts have already served over 21,000 cases across the country, literally taking a full court house mounted in specially customized buses to poor rural and urban people.

Indrawati also met with President Porfirio Lobo and members of his cabinet to review the Bank programs in Honduras and potential development issues such as the country's high levels of crime and violence.

A recent World Bank report found that crime rates in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are among the highest in Latin America. Aside from the pain and trauma inflicted upon victims, violence can cost the region up to 8 percent of its GDP when taking into account law enforcement, citizen security and health care costs, the report argues.


Sri Mulyani Indrawati met with president Porfirio Lobo to discuss the Bank's continuing support to his development agenda.
(Click photo to enlarge)

Indrawati noted that Honduras is facing particular development challenges not only from spiraling crime and violence but also from the global food price and fuel hikes. "This is creating problems for government's abilities to reduce poverty and improve equity," she noted. As many as 44 million people will fall into extreme poverty as a result of the current food crisis, according to the World Bank Food Watch.

Indrawati reiterated the Bank's commitment to continue supporting Honduras' attempts to reduce poverty and equalize opportunities for its citizens. "Right now an important focus is budget support so we can help the government close its fiscal gap," she said.

According to a Bank assessment Honduras' fiscal situation is improving as it continues to narrow its budget gap. In 2010 it reached -2.9% of GDP, down from -4.5% of GDP in 2009.

Supporting Costa Rica's Green Agenda


Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati (left) talks to farmers in Puriscal, where reforestation programs have helped preserve Costa Rica's lush forest.
(Click photo to enlarge)

In Costa Rica, Indrawati witnessed the dramatic progress the country has made towards protecting the environment. From having one of the world's highest deforestation rates a few years ago Cost Rica has become a model for green initiatives thanks to programs such as Pagos por Servicios Ambientales (PSA) --payments made to individuals and businesses to preserve the environment.

With World Bank/GEF resources, PSA programs have supported over the past decade forest conservation on privately-owned lands in priority watersheds and key areas within Costa Rica's portion of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

Indrawati was able to witness firsthand the fruits of these initiatives. Over 179 hectares of forest land are currently labeled as protected areas with more than 35,000 trees planted in several reforestation initiatives. The project has reached or exceeded all key performance indicators, including incorporating 130,900 hectares into the program from priority areas of Costa Rica's Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, and contracting 70,000 hectares on privately owned lands.

Indrawati praised President Laura Chinchilla for her innovative "green" leadership and reiterated the Bank's support for her development agenda.